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    GENERAL INFO THAILAND  

General Information of Thailand

General Information of ThailandThailand was known for centuries by outsiders as Siam. It first made a real impression on the West at the end of the 17th century, through the reports of a series of inquisitive Frenchmen. They were not the first Europeans to spend time in the kingdom, however. The Portuguese sent an envoy to the capital in 1511, shortly after they seized Malacca. The Portuguese joined resident Chinese, Japanese, Malays and Persians to make the Siamese capital one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the vast region now known as Southeast Asia. Modern and predominantly Buddhist, it is a Southeast Asian kingdom whose ancient equilibrium and present standing mingle in evolving harmony.

Substantially, Thailand's distinctive and unparalleled characteristics stem from Indian and Chinese influences (harmoniously blended by Thai eclecticism), rich ethnic diversity, abundant natural and human resources, and over seven hundred years of cherished independence (Thailand is the only important Southeast Asian society never to have been colonized by Westerners). Thailand's traditional culture is delicately tuned to the time-honored Buddhist's non-confrontational approach to life, and ideals of charity, tolerance and loving-kindness.

As the country's largest earner of foreign exchange, tourism is given every encouragement by the Royal Thai Government, including full support to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in order to carry out its mission and objectives.

In 1998, the country welcomed 7.7 million overseas visitors, an increase of 7.5% over 1997. During the year, Japan was Thailand's largest market for arrivals, followed by Malaysia and China. The average length of stay for all tourists was around eight days. In another promotion of the Thai tourist industry, Thai citizens are themselves being encouraged to take more trips within the country and discover the excitement of Thailand.

Thailand's outstanding tourism performance is due to several factors, including the economic stability of its main markets, the increased number of flights to Thailand, the opening of the new airport terminal in Bangkok, bigger financial support from the government and greater cooperation from the private sector.

An important factor in the recent increase of tourist arrivals resulted from the 50th Anniversary (Golden Jubilee) Celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej 's Accession to the Throne, which was held from January 1995 to December 1996 and featured many special events. The promotion of Amazing Thailand Years, 1998-1999, gave a further boost and established the country as a major tourist destination in Asia.

Thailand is well equipped to handle this increased tourist and business traffic. It is blessed with many excellent hotels, not just in Bangkok but in every major business and tourist destination throughout the country. Recent years have seen numerous first-class properties built in Bangkok. A number of hotel projects have been completed, including several along the Chao Phraya River, as well as major extension and expansion programs by existing hotels.

Thailand has more than 2,500 hotels and other types of accommodation, with over 100,000 rooms in major tourist destinations. The hotels range in quality from deluxe and first-class, with swimming pools, sports centers, conference facilities, and ballrooms, to low budget guesthouses and hotels providing just the basics in comfort and security.

Bangkok alone has over 73,000 rooms of all sorts. Pattaya, the country's second most popular tourist destination after Bangkok, boasts about 24,000 hotel rooms. The northern provincial capital of Chiang Mai is also well endowed with quality hotels while Phuket's popularity in recent years has drawn many hotel developers to this southern island. In the South, the cities of Songkhla and Hat Yai both boast many four-star hotels. Equally good accommodations can be found in all major towns of the Northeast, the West and in towns like Chanthaburi, Rayong and Trat in the East.

Thailand's convention industry has also developed into a stronger market in recent years. This growth has been facilitated by a hotel industry complemented by some of the finest conference facilities in Southeast Asia. Bangkok remains the most popular choice for convention planners and many hotels in the capital offer appropriate facilities. The Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, completed in 1991, can accommodate up to 4,800 participating delegates and includes many small conference rooms. Newly opened, as Bangkok's latest prestigious conference facility is the United Nations Conference Center, which can accommodate over 2,000 participants in its major hall, and further has four medium and eight small conference rooms. Conveniently located close to many of Bangkok's tourist landmarks, the Center offers professional conference services including state-of-the-art equipment and translation into many languages.

Other destinations in Thailand also offer excellent meeting facilities. In addition to hotel-based meeting and convention facilities, Bangkok has the Thailand Cultural Center on Ratchadapisek Road, an outstanding venue for cultural shows and performances of all kinds. The huge indoor stadium at Hua Mark, with its circular auditorium for 6,000 people, is frequently used for major sporting events, musical concerts and other types of large-scale gatherings.

Most visitors to Thailand arrive by air through Bangkok's International Airport. Bangkok is a commercial air hub for Southeast Asia and is served by 84 scheduled airlines. Travel to Thailand from any continent is thus fast and convenient. Moreover, many new routes have been opened, while flight frequencies have also been increased. An entire new terminal was added at Bangkok International Airport at the end of 1995, increasing its efficiency and convenience for air travelers. Other facilities include duty-free shops, restaurants, closed circuit television, foreign exchange counters, and both pay and toll-free telephones. Both limousine and taxi services are available, while bus and train services to the airport will be improved. There is ample parking for private cars.

From Bangkok, visitors fan out to all major provinces either by air, rail, car, or coach. The country has a modern system of highways stretching in every direction. Popular resorts and other tourist destinations are served by regular and reliable coach and bus services from the capital. Travel between provinces is also safe and comfortable, as there are good connecting highways.

The State Railway of Thailand operates in all regions of the country: the northern line to Chiang Mai; two northeastern lines, to Ubon Ratchathani and Nong Khai; the eastern line to Aranyaprathet; and the southern line which goes to Hat Yai, where it connects with the Malaysian rail system and continues on to Penang and Singapore. For visitors with limited time, travel by air is also convenient since there are scheduled flights from Bangkok to more than 30 provinces. Visitors, therefore, have a wide choice of transportation alternatives, and can plan their itineraries accordingly.

Most local tour agents have connections with overseas agents in major markets; therefore, visitors can plan their itineraries and book their hotels before they leave home. Thai tour agents provide a friendly and professional service, and most also offer good tour coaches and multi-lingual guides.

The country's future directions are clear. Thailand is going to play a major role in the development of tourism within Indochina. A number of cooperative marketing agreements have already been signed with the governments of Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Laos. In addition, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is also working closely with its counterparts in the ASEAN countries to attract more visitors to the region. The development of the policy that has made Thailand the aviation hub of Asia is also expected to go a long way towards promoting more airlines to fly to Thailand. Thai Airways International, the national carrier, has signed a series of marketing alliances with foreign airlines like Lufthansa, United Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Ansett Australia, all of which increase Thailand's penetration into the key tourism markets. 

Much stress has been laid on opening up of new markets from South Africa, South America, the Middle East, and the former Eastern European countries where growing prosperity and economic development are leading to more outbound travel by citizens of those countries. The policy of the Thai government is now to spend much more effort on product development, including preservation of the environment, increased  training of tourist manpower, and setting up the proper legal structures to protect tourists against crime. 

TOURS IN THAILAND
Thailand is an extraordinary country of contrasts and surprises with glittering temples, tropical forests, idyllic beaches, modern shopping malls and friendly hospitable people.

From the high mountains in the north, to the soft sand beaches in the south, the scenery will take your breath away. Jungle covered mountains, deep mist covered valleys, island seascapes, beaches and coral reefs, all part of Thailand's rich tapestry. And, it's easy to get around. Add a vibrant capital city, bustling with activity with a modern sophisticated "Skytrain" rail system and superb hotels and you have a unique holiday experience.

Nestled between Laos, Burma and Cambodia in the north, and bordering with Malaysia in the south. Major northern cities are Chiang Mai and Khon Khen. In-between the north and south is a long coastline lapped by the Andaman Sea to the west (with Phuket, Krabi Phi Phi) and the Gulf of Thailand to the east (Ko Samui, Pattaya, Ko Samet ).

TREKKING IN THAILAND
Thailand has some ideal terrain for hiking, from the precipitous karst forests of Krabi and Khao Sok to the undulating mountains surrounding Mae Hong Son and Loei. trekking in Thailand search for home Asia Thailand travel guide trekking in Thailand Thai boxing diving golf krabi krabong ta kraw trekking.

natural beauty it is the opportunity to visit hill tribes that has undoubtedly caused the trekking business to boom the novelty of encountering hill tribes people in elaborate costumes undeniably adds cultural frisson to a trek however over time traditional tribal values cannot but be eroded by continued exposure to tourists additionally there is the problem of trekkers feeling like voyeurs particularly at cynical freak shows such as the long necked padaung try to establish a rapport with tribes people and ask their permission before taking photos villages close to chiang mai and chiang rai and increasingly pai and mae hong son are all depressingly exploited

The term trekking is traditionally applied to overland journeys made on foot, usually involving the support of a trek crew to carry personal belongings, along with any tents, food and cooking equipment that may be required. Over the last 20 years KE has developed a superb range of trekking adventures including: treks to Everest Base Camp, following the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; climbing Mount Kilimanjaro; alpine walking on the Tour de Mont Blanc and the classic Haute Route.

ROCK CLIMBING IN THAILAND
In recent years the adventure sport of rock climbing has become the fastest growing outdoor activity of all. Our rock climbing adventure trip will let you experience fun and excitement by giving you the maximum amount climbing activity with safety. Our rock climbing adventure trip will let you experience fun and excitement by giving you the maximum amount climbing activity.

The trip begins with an instruction in the fundamentals of abseiling and basic rock climbing including equipment for rock climbing. The trip will bring you up to full basic rock climbing level and visit a big cave.

Morning pick up from your Hotel transfer to our Climbing Site Short practice at a beautiful jungle site, spectacular limestone cliff Begin climbing with varieties climbing routes as many climb you like. Stop for lunch at a nice place beside the cliff (Picnic box). After lunch get more exciting with more advance climb, Try some hard climbing. Evening pack up gears and Transfer back to your Hotel.

FESTIVALS IN THAILAND
Thai Calendar
In 1940, Thailand moved its New Year's Day from April 13th to January 1st. The old New Year is still a holiday called Songkran. Years are counted as the Buddhist era (B.E.) which started 543 years earlier than the Christian, era, therefore 2002 AD are the year 2545 BE.

New Years Day Jan 1st: In Thailand there are three New Year's days. The Western, on Jan 1st, the Chinese New Year on the first day of the First Lunar month, usually in February and the Thai New Year marked by the Songkhran festival in April. Thais usually exchange gifts on January 1st.

Phra BuddhaBaht Fair: Held at the temple of the Holy Footprint at Saraburi, 236Km north of Bangkok, from 31st January to 1st February. Many activities including music and outdoor drama.

Bosang Umbrella Fair: Held in Chiang Mai during January, it features colourful paper umbrellas and other local handicrafts.

Chinese New Year: 1st day of the first Chinese Lunar month, usually in February. Businesses close for 3-4 days giving families time to get together and worship at one of the Chinese Buddhist temples. There may also be public celebrations with acrobats, Lion Dance and firecrackers. The latter are believed to frighten away "foreign devils".

Flower Carnival: Held in Chiang Mai during February it features parades and colourful floats exhibiting the local flora.

Makha Bucha Day: End of February/beginning of March, depending on the moon. This commemorates the day when 1250 of Buddha's disciples gathered spontaneously to hear him preach. Buddhists visit Wats and make merit by such acts as releasing caged birds. In the evening the celebrations culminate in a candle lit procession around the main temple building.

Chakri Day 6th April: Commemorates the founding of the Chakri Dynasty, of which the present King Bhumipon is the 9th King. Portraits of the King and Queen are prominently displayed and decked with tributes of flowers.

Songkhran 13-15th April: This is the celebration of the old Thai New Year. Buddhists visit the temple for the ceremony of Rod Nam Dam Nua. They sprinkle water on the Buddha images, and on the hands of the monks and novices at the temple, as an offering to express confidence that the supply of water will be adequate to cover the dry season.

Songkhran is a time when the Thai family will try to be together, and many people will travel back to their home village. This holiday has now become secularized, with exuberant merrymakers taking to the streets throwing water at each other, and you, by the cup full, the bucket full, or even with a hose. To add to the fun, talc is mixed with the water and may be daubed on your face. Take it all in good spirit, no one is exempt, not even the policemen. The cool water may even be a welcome relief as the festival coincides with the time when the sun is due overhead and the weather can be very hot.

Pattaya Festival: Held during the second week of April in Pattaya on Thailand's Eastern Seaboard. It features processions, floral displays, and other special events plus a spectacular fireworks display.

National Labour Day - 1st May: This holiday follows the lead of many western countries, whose workers now celebrate Labour Day.

Coronation Day - 5th May: This celebrates the coronation of the present King Bhumipon, Rama IX. Tributes are paid at shrines and portraits of His Majesty.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony: This is an ancient Brahman ceremony, held under Royal patronage in Bangkok during May, which celebrates the beginning of the rice planting season.

Fruit Fair: A festival is held in Rayong during May and another in Chantaburi during June. They feature locally grown fruit such as rambutan, durian, and jack fruit.

Visakha Bucha Day - Full moon of the 6th Lunar Month: This celebrates the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha, and is therefore the most sacred day on the Buddhist calendar.

Asalaha Bucha Day - Mid July: This is the day before the start of Buddhist Lent. Many young men, who are about to become monks, holding parties on this day.

Buddhist Lent - Mid July: This marks the start of Khao Pansa, period similar to the Christian Lent. During the period monks do not travel to other monasteries, their religious duties are strictly observed, and the novice monks receive their training in the teachings of Buddha.

Candle Festival: Held in Ubon Ratchatani on Khao Pansa Day. Candles carved from bees wax are paraded through the streets.

H.M. Queen's Birthday - 12th August: Tributes are paid to Her Majesty, and donations are made to the many charitable organizations that are patronized by the Queen.

Chulalongkorn Day - 23rd October: This commemorates the death of King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, who reigned between 1868 and 1910. He is renowned for his achievements in the fields of education, modernization and progressive thinking.

Buffalo Races: Held in Chonburi (80Km east of Bangkok) during October.

Loy Krathong - Full Moon 12th Lunar month, November: The festival is believed to date back to the Sukhothai period, but its exact significance is uncertain. Krathongs, or lotus flowers made of natural materials, containing a candle, incense sticks, a coin or two and beautifully decorated with flowers are launched into the sea, or any convenient stretch of water, as a thanksgiving to the water spirits, and a cleansing of sins.

River Kwai Bridge Week: A week long series of historical exhibitions, light and sound shows, and vintage train rides held in Kanchanaburi during the last week of October.

Annual Elephant Roundup: Held during the third week of November at Surin in North East Thailand.

Trouping of the Colour - 3rd December: Their Majesties the King and Queen preside over this annual event which is held in the Royal Plaza, Bangkok.

H.M. King's Birthday - 5th December: People demonstrate their respect for King with flags, displays and other tributes.

Constitution Day - 10th December: This marks the day in 1932, when the monarchy became constitutional, at the very beginning of democracy on Thailand.

New Year's Eve - 31st December: The end of the old year when everybody celebrates.

INTERESTING PLACE TO VISIT IN THAILAND

There is so much to see and do in Thailand that every day you're sure to come across something completely new and exciting. Bangkok's shimmering temples and vibrant floating markets, picture postcard beaches in Phuket, Krabi and Samui Island, Jungle covered mountains and exotic hill tribes in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand's premier world heritage site at Sukhothai and the eerie limestone seascape of Phang Nga Bay. Check out some of the places you really shouldn't miss before you come back for more.

CENTRAL REGION
The Chao Phraya River and its intricate network of canals irrigate the rice and fruit growing areas of the Central Plain, together with bountiful orchards and market gardens. It also hosts colorful floating markets and supports a unique, waterborne way of life. The Central Region is extremely rich in historical sites and these include Nakhon Pathom, Kanchanaburi, Bang Pa-In, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Lop Buri and, most important of all, Bangkok, Thailand's capital and major point-of-entry.

BANGKOK: The cosmopolitan & international city of Bangkok offers an exciting, vibrant and chaotic mixture of Buddhist temples, opulent palaces, ultramodern architecture, classy hotels, street vendors, tuk tuks, elephants, floating markets, transportation canals, delicious cuisine, and huge open air markets. It is truly a place where east meets west.

Bangkok's major tourism attractions include the fabulous Wat Phra Kaeo (Emerald Buddha Chapel) and Grand Palace complex; Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Saket (Golden Mount); Wat Benchannabophit (Marble Temple),Vimanmek Palace, favorite residence of King Chulalongkorn, the royal barges, the Pasteur Institute's Snake Farm where poisonous snakes are milked for their venom to make invaluable serum. Jim Thompson's House Museum contains a superb collection of Asian objects d'art, and Suan Pakkand Palace's lacquer pavilion is decorated with medieval gold leaf murals. Also well worth a visit is the world's largest Crocodile Farm, and a 200-acre open-air museum called the Ancient City. Bangkok also boasts entertainment and recreational complexes such as Siam Water Park, Safari World, King Rama IX Park and Dusit Zoo, together with exceptional shopping, fine dining and a legendary nightlife.

The Rose Garden, a riverside tropical country club one hour west of Bangkok, offers an 18-hole championship golf course, fine accommodation and a Thai Village where daily shows feature traditional activities such as folk dancing, the Thai wedding ceremony, a Buddhist ordination and elephants at work.

At NAKHON PATHOM: 60 kilometers from Bangkok, you will find the world's tallest Buddhist monument, the Phra Pathom Chedi, which marks the spot where Buddhism was introduced, 2,300 years ago.

DAMNOENSADUAK: 40 minutes south of Nakhon Pathom, is Thailand's most vibrant floating market where farmers congregate in their boats on the canals each morning to sell their produce.

The "BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI": an Allied war cemetery and beautiful surrounding countryside with waterfalls, wide fertile valleys, and caves once inhabited by Neolithic man. The Saiyok Noi, Saiyok Yai, Erawan and Huai Khamin Waterfalls and 12th-century Khmer Prasat Muang Sing are well worth visiting.

AYUTTHAYA was the old Siamese capital. It is situated about 70 kilometers upstream from Bangkok and offers magnificent ruins of temples, palaces and crumbling fortresses. Wat Panan Choeng, Wat Si San Phet, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, Phu Khao Thong and the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum should not be missed.

BANG PA-IN PALACE just south of Ayutthaya was the summer residence of early Chakri kings. The local Wat Niwet Thamaprawat is one of Thailand's most unusual Buddhist temples.

PHRA BUDDHA BAT: Shrine of the Buddha's Footprint, is just north of Saraburi, about 110 kilometers north of Bangkok. The Buddha's Footprint was discovered 350 years ago when a deer hunter found that a pool of water in the shape of a human foot had healing powers.

LOP BURI an ancient city dating from the 9th century, contains Hindu and Khmer ruins and the imposing Ramratchaniwet Palace built by Ayutthaya's King Narai during the 1600s as a summer retreat.

PHETCHABURI: 120 kilometers southwest of Bangkok, is known for the Khao Luang Caves, the hilltop Phra Nakhon Khiri palace, the Wat Suwanaram with its Ayutthayan meeting hall, murals and scriptural repository, and Thailand's largest National Park, the stunning, mountainous Kaeng Krachan.

CHA AM: 773 kilometers southwest of Bangkok, is a popular beachside resort.

HUA HIN: 198 kilometers from Bangkok, is Thailand's oldest beach resort and has been the Thai royal family's summer residence since the 1920s with a fine beach, excellent accommodation and a wide range of sports and activities.

SAM ROI YOT National Park is one hour south of Hua Hin and covers 60 square kilometers of coastal land.

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN is a fishing town with a scenic bay and the beachside Khao Chong Krachok (Mirror Mountain) with its resident monkey tribe.

THE NORTH
SUKHOTHAI: 427 kilometers north of Bangkok, is famous for its massive sentinel stone Buddha images. Be sure to visit the largest temple, Wat Mahathat, together with Wat Si Chum that houses a massive seated Buddha measuring 11 meters across.

PHITSANULOK is famous as the site of the riverside Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha enshrining the venerated Phra Buddha Chinarat, cast in 1357, and commonly regarded as Thailand's most beautiful Buddha image.

SI SATCHANALLAI: 55 kilometers north of Sukhothai, is noted for several magnificent ruins, including Wat Chang Lom and Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo.

LAMPANG: 600 kilometers north of Bangkok, Lampang is the sole provincial Thai capital where horse drawn carriages remain in daily use. It is noted for several Burmese-style temples, including Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao and Wat Si Chum, the magnificent Wat Lampang Luang, and a Thai Elephant Conservation Center.

LAMPHUN is famed for the stunning Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, a classic example of northern religious architecture.

CHIANG MAI: The principal northern city, approximately 700 kilometers north of Bangkok, was founded in 1296 and is located in a fertile valley 1,000 feet above sea level. It is famous for its historic temples, beautiful mountains, distinctive festivals and handicrafts, and several formerly itinerant hill tribes of Tibeto-Burman origin. Wat Phra Sing, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Ku Tao and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep are all worth visiting.

The BOR SANG-SAN KAMPAENG area is particularly rich in cottage industries producing handicrafts such as parasols, silks, cottons, jewelry, woodcarvings, silverware, ceramics and lacquer ware.

DOI INTHANON: Thailand's highest mountain, lies to the west near the cascading Mae Klang, Wachirathan and Siriphurn waterfalls.

MAE HONG SON a 35-minute flight northwest of Chiang Mai, is the tiniest and most isolated northern provincial capital, nestling in a valley surrounded by mountains containing several hill tribes and Burmese style temples.

CHIANG RAJ: Northeast of Chiang Mai, and 785 kilometers from Bangkok, lies in the very heart of the Golden Triangle and is particularly famed for majestic mountains and hill tribe villages. Popular attractions include Chiang Saen, an ancient capital facing Laos across the Mekong River, and the mountaintop Wat Phra That Doi Tung that commands a spectacular view of surrounding mountains, and several Akha hill tribe villages.

NAN is the site of famous annual boat races, and several historic temples, including Wat Chang Kham, Wat Chae Haeng, Wat Phra That Khao Noi and Wat Phumin with its undulating Naga balustrades and famous murals.

THE NORTHEAST
KHAO YAII National Park: Northeast of Saraburi and about 200 kilometers from Bangkok, covers an area of about 540,000 acres, its highest peak is 1,351 meters and within its rain forests and high grasslands there are numerous species of protected wildlife, such as deer, bears, tigers, elephants, giant hornbills, sunbirds and silver pheasants. The park is full of hiking trails, with rapids and waterfalls.

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: 259 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, is the gateway to I-San. The provincial capital of Phimai is the site of an 11th-century prasat hin temple, one of the loveliest examples of classical Khmer architecture found outside Kampuchea.

Other major I-San attractions include Khon Kaen, a university town famous for its Mat Mi silk; Loei province's Phu Kra Dung National Park, a beautiful forested plateau, the Kaeng Khut Khu rapids at Chiang Khan; the scenic Si Chiang Mai to Nongkhai road along the Mekong River; Udon Thani's Ban Chiang village and museum which house priceless Bronze Age jewelry and pottery excavated from local burial mounds; Nakhon Phanom's Phra That Phanom, the most revered Northeast shrine, the spire of which dates from the 9th century; Ubon Ratchathani with its annual Buddhist Rains Retreat and Candle Festival, and the pre-historical rock paintings at Pha Taem in Khong Chiam district near the Mekong River; Yasothon, where, each summer, massive homemade rockets are ceremoniously fired into the air to ensure bountiful rains; Surin, where an annual Elephant Round-Up each November attracts visitors from all over the world; and Buri Ram's Prasat Hin Phanom Rung, a lovely hilltop Khmer sanctuary once connected by road with Angkor.

THE EAST COAST
BANDSAEN: This is Bangkok's nearest resort boasting a palm-lined promenade, a long crescent shaped beach, and a water amusement park.

KHAO KHIAO Open Zoo: Here you can observe Asian, African and European mammals in spacious enclosures, and visit Thailand's most spectacular aviary.

SI RACHA is a fishing community famed for a delicious, tangy sauce and excellent seafood.

PATTAYA: 147 kilometers southeast of Bangkok, is Thailand's "Riviera" and internationally famous beach resort. The main attractions here include a vibrant nightlife, numerous water sports, motor racing, offshore coral islands and luxury accommodation.

BANG SARE is a fishing village, from where game fishermen seek marlin, sharks, king mackerel, and tuna.

RAYONG is best known for Ban Phe fishing village and Samet Island. At just 6 kilometers in length, Ko Samet offers sun-soaked beaches, coral reefs and clear waters ideal for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing.

CHANTHABURI is famous for historic sites, Thailand's largest Christian church, locally mined star sapphires, abundant orchards and the lovely waterfalls of the Khao Khitchakut and Namtok Phlui national parks.

TRAT: The province bordering Kampuchea, is best known for the 52-island Ko Chang Marine National Park.

THE SOUTH
CHUMPHON has lovely beaches, birds' nest islands and some excellent diving sites.

RANONG has a Hot Spa Health Resort fed by Thailand's only Geo-Thermal Mineral Water Spring.

SURAT THANI is best known for the beautiful Ko Samui, Thailand's third largest island encompassing the wondrous Angthong (Golden Bowl) Marine National Park.

NAKHON SI THARNMARAT is an ancient city, home of the historically important Wat Phra Maha That, and a major handicrafts center.

SONGKHLA
: A medieval pirate stronghold, is a historic town with a thriving fishing community and the beautiful Samila beach. The Great Songkhla Lake and Khu Khut Waterfowl Park is home to about 140 species.

PATTANI: At Pattani you can find Thailand's most beautiful mosque and many fishing communities with hand painted, decorated boats.

NARATHIWAT: Bordering Malaysia, is noted for the Ba Cho Waterfall, a massive seated golden Buddha at Wat Khao Kong, and the lively town of Sungai Golok.

HAT YAI is southern Thailand's principal commercial and entertainment center, regularly attracting visitors from nearby Malaysia.

PHATTHALLUNG offers the Talay Noi Nok Nam bird sanctuary at the northwestern end of the Songkhla Great Lake.

TRANG'S Khao Chong Nature Reserve contains one of southern Thailand's most beautiful waterfalls.

KRABI'S
boasts the beautiful Phi Phi islands, the 75-million-year-old Susan Hoi shell graveyard, and the sweeping Noppharat Beach.

PHANG NGA'S major attraction is the mysterious Phang Nga Bay where limestone islands full of caves and grottoes rise to heights of 300 meters from smooth calm waters.

PHUKET is Thailand's largest and most famous island; blessed with magnificent beaches, a vibrant nightlife and offers what is probably the best seafood in Thailand.

GENERAL INFORMATION OF THAILAND

Full Country Name: Thailand (Prathet Thai, meaning "land of the free")
Neighboring Countries:
1) Myanmar - west and north,
2) Lao P.D.R. - north and northeast,
3) Cambodia - southeast and
4) Malaysia - south.

Area: 513,115 sq. km.

Capital: Bangkok (Krung Thep, meaning "city of angels")

Geography: The kingdom of Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, making it a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and Southern China. Its shape and geography divide into four natural regions : the mountains and forests of the North; the vast rice fields of the Central Plains; the semi-arid farm lands of the Northeast plateau; and the tropical islands and long coastline of the peninsula South. The country comprises 76 provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. Bangkok is the capital city and centre of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. It is also the seat of Thailand's revered Royal Family, with His Majesty the King recognised as Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of the Buddhist religion and Upholder of all religions.

Topography: Thailand is divided into 4 natural regions:
1. The mountainous North, with its profusion of multi-coloured orchids, fascinating native handicrafts and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches;
2. The high Northeast Plateau, which still jealously guards its many archaeological and anthropological mysteries;

3. The Central Plain, one of the world's most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas with colourful traditional culture and way of life as well as the sandy beaches of the East Coast and vibrant cosmopolitan Bangkok;

4. The peninsular South where the unspoiled beaches and idyllic islands complement economically vital tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing.

Population: Thais are well-known for their friendliness and hospitality. A large majority of over 62 million citizens of Thailand are ethic Thai, along with strong communities whose ethnic origins lie in China, India and elsewhere. About 7 million people reside in the capital city of Bangkok.

People: Thai (80%), Chinese (10%), Malay (3%), and the rest are minorities (Mons, Khmers, hill tribes) Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroads, and has thus produced a degree of ethnic diversity. Integration is such, however, that culturally and socially there is enormous unity.

Language: Spoken and written Thai is largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and some European Languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nationwide.

Religion: Buddhism (95%), Muslim (4%), others (1%)

Government: Thailand has had a constitutional monarchy since 1932. Parliament is composed of 2 houses, The House of Representatives and the Senate. Both representatives and senators are elected by the people. A prime minister elected from among the representatives leads the government. The country is divided into 76 provinces. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration comes under an elected governor. Appointed provincial governors administer the other 75 provinces (Changwat), which are divided into districts (Amphoe), sub-districts (Tambon) and villages (Mu Ban).

Head of State: H.R.H. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty)

Prime Minister: Thaksin Shinawatra

Administration: 76 provinces, each subdivided into amphoe (district), tambon (sub-district) and muban (village)

National Flag: The red, white, and blue stripes symbolize the nation, Buddhism, and the monarchy, respectively.

Time: The time in Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+7 hours GMT).

Climate: Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons-hot and dry from February to May (average temperature 34 degrees Celsius and 75% humidity); rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to October (average day temperature 29 degrees Celsius and 87% humidity); and cool from November to January (temperatures range from 32 degrees Celsius to below 20 degrees Celsius with a drop in humidity). Much lower temperatures are experienced in the North and Northeast during nighttime. The South has a tropical rainforest climate with temperatures averaging 28 degrees Celsius almost all year round.

Electricity: The electric current is 220 volt AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. Many different types of plugs and sockets are in use. Travellers with electric shavers, hair dryers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug adapter kit. The better hotels will make available 110-volt transformers.

Tap water: Tap water is clean but drinking from it directly should be avoided. Bottled water is recommended

Clothing: Light, cool clothes are sensible and a jacket is needed for formal meetings and dining in top restaurants. Shorts (except knee length walking shorts), sleeveless shirts, tank tops and other beach-style attire are considered inappropriate dress when not actually at the beach or in a resort area.

Money and Financial Matters: The Thai currency is called the "Baht" and is pronounced to rhyme with 'hot'. There are several currency exchanges at Bangkok's international airport, and around most major tourist areas. After being allowed to float freely in July 1997 - precipitating the Asian financial crises -- the Baht has settled in around 40 Baht to the US Dollar.

As in most countries, you do not want to change money at hotels, as their rates will be significantly lower than you will get from a bank exchange. Travelers Checks can be changed at exchanges, but are not generally accepted elsewhere.

Major credit cards -- Visa, MasterCard and American Express -- are accepted at most hotels and restaurants. Department stores and other large shops will also generally accept all cards. However, smaller merchants may not accept any cards, or add on the credit card processing fee (3% for Visa and MasterCard, 5% for American Express) to the price of items purchased. See our Money Matters page for more links and important information you should know about using credit cards overseas.

Weights & Measures: The metric system is used throughout Thailand. Numerals on vehicle speed ohmmeters, highway markers and speed limits all indicate kilometres.

Business hours: Most commercial concerns in Bangkok operate on a five-day week, usually from 8 am to 5 pm. Many stores open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm. Government offices are generally open between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm with a noon to 1 pm lunch break, Monday to Friday except on public holidays. Banks are open Mondays to Fridays from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm except on public holidays.

Postal Services: Thailand's mail service is reliable and efficient. Major hotels provide basic postal services on their premises. Provincial post offices are usually open from 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.

International Roaming Mobile Phone: A Subscriber Identity Module Card (SIM Card) is now available for Thai and foreign customers who are travelling around for work. The SIM Card must be used in conjunction with a Digital GSM mobile phone within the 900-MHz range or a Digital PCN mobile phone within the 1800-MHz range.

Fax and E-Mail: All of Thailand's leading hotels offer facsimile (fax) and e-mail services. Numerous private businesses offer such facilities, most often in conjunction with translation services.

Internet Services: Thailand has been expanding its information service for residents and tourists alike through the Internet system. Services are now available at Thailand's leading hotels and at the many " Cyber-Cafes " that are cropping up in all major tourist destinations.

Telephone Services: At present, all telephone numbers (for local calls and long distance calls within the country) have nine digits.  For Bangkok calls, 02 is added to the existing numbers i.e. 0 2694 1222. 
For provincial calls, an area code is added to the existing numbers. For example, area code for Chiang Mai is 053 = 0 5324 8604; area code for Phuket is 076 = 0 7621 1036. 
For mobile phones, 01 or 09 is added to the existing numbers. 
The new system has no effect on international phone calls. 
The international dialing code for Thailand is 66. 
When making international calls to Thailand, add 66 and omit the leading 0. 
When making international calls from Thailand, first dial 001+country code+area code+telephone number.
If calling Laos or Malaysia, there is a special code which is charged at a semi-domestic rate. 
When calling Laos, first dial 007+856+area code+telephone number 
When calling Malaysia, first dial 09+06+area code+telephone number 
Direct assistance: 1133 (local), 100 (international)

Emergency Telephone Numbers
Central Emergency (Police, Ambulance, Fire) : 191 
Highway Patrol : 1193 
Crime Suppression : 195 or (662) 513 3844 
Tourist Police (English, French and German spoken) : 1155 
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Call Centre : 1672 
Immigration Bureau : (662) 287 3101-10

Visa & customs
As a general rule, any foreigner seeking entry into the Kingdom of Thailand for business, investment, study, medical treatment, mass media, religion, employment and other purposes is required to apply for a visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate-General. To do so, a foreigner must possess a valid passport or travel document that is recognized by the Royal Thai Government and comply with the conditions set forth in the Immigration Act B.E.2522 (1979) and its related provisions.

Foreigners who fall into any of the following categories are prohibited to enter the Kingdom.

Having no genuine and valid passport or document used in lieu of passport; or having a genuine and valid passport or document used in lieu of passport without visaing by the Royal Thai Embassies or Consulates in foreign countries; or from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, except if a visa is not required for certain types of aliens in special instances. Visaing and visa exemption will be under the terms and conditions as provided in the Ministerial Regulations.

Having no appropriate means of living following entrance into the Kingdom.

Having entered into the Kingdom to take occupation as a labourer, or to take employment by using physical energy without skills or training , or to work in violation of the Alien Work Permit Law.

Being mentally unstable or having any of the diseases as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations.

Having not yet been vaccinated against smallpox or inoculated or undergone any other medical treatment for protection against disease and having refused to have such vaccinations administered by the Immigration Doctor.

Having been imprisoned by the judgment of the Thai Court; or by a lawful injunction; or by the judgment of the Court of foreign country, except when the penalty is for petty offense or negligence or is provided for as an exception in the Ministerial Regulations.

Having behavior which would indicate possible danger to the Public or likelihood of being nuisance or constituting any violence to the peace or safety of the public or to the security of the public or to the security of the nation, or being under warrant of arrest by competent officials of foreign governments.

Reason to believe that entrance into the Kingdom was for the purpose of being involved in prostitution, the trading of women of children, drug smuggling, or other types of smuggling which are contrary to the public morality.

Having no money or bond as prescribed by the Minister under Section 14 of the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 .

Being a person prohibited by the Minister under Section 16 of the Immigration Act B.E. 2522.

Being deported by either the Government of Thailand that of or other foreign countries; or the right of stay in the Kingdom or in foreign countries having been revoked; or having been sent out of the Kingdom by competent officials at the expense of the Government of Thailand unless the Minister shall consider exemption on an individual special case basis.

The examination and diagnosis of disease of a physical or mental nature, including protective operations as against disease, shall be conducted by the Immigration Doctor.

Information on location and contact number of the Thai Embassy and Consulate-General abroad could be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Consular Affairs, Visas and Travel Documents Division, 123 Chaengwattana Road, Bangkok 10210, Tel. (662) 981-7171 ext. 3201-2, 3204-5 or direct line 575-1062-4, Fax. (662) 575-1066 ,  E-mail : div1303@mfa.go.th

Note: Please check the period of stay stamped in your passport by the immigration officer. Visitors who overstay their visa will, at the time of their departure, be fined 500 baht for each excess day.

Any foreigner wishing to enter Thailand is required to obtain a visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate-General. However, there are nationals of certain countries who do not require a visa, provided they meet the requirements, as follows:   (1) nationals of countries which are exempted from visa requirements when entering Thailand for tourism purposes and will be permitted to stay for a period not exceeding 30 days, according to the Interior Ministerial Announcements. For more information, please see Tourist Visa Exemption; or Nationals of countries which have bilateral agreements with Thailand on the exemption of visa requirements. For more information, please see List of countries which have concluded agreements on the exemption of visa requirements with Thailand.

Nationals of specific countries may apply for a visa upon arrival in Thailand. Travellers with this type of visa are permitted to enter and stay in Thailand for a period not exceeding 15 days. For more information, please see Visa on Arrival.

Travellers from/through the countries which have been declared Yellow Fever Infected Areas must have an International Health Certificate proving that they have received a Yellow Fever vaccination. For more information, see List of countries which are declared Yellow Fever Infected Areas.

Nationals of certain countries are required to apply for a visa only at the Thai Embassy or Consulate-General in their home/residence country or at the designated Thai Embassy. Therefore, travellers are advised to contact the nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate-General to find out where they may apply for a visa to Thailand before departure.

Information on location and contact number of Thai Embassies and Consulates-General is available at www.mfa.go.th/web/10.php

To apply for a visa, a foreigner must possess a valid passport or travel document that is recognized by the Royal Thai Government and comply with the conditions set forth in the Immigration Act of Thailand B.E.2522 (1979) and its relevant regulations. In addition, a visa applicant must be outside Thailand at the time of the application. Applicants will be issued with types of visas according to their purpose of visit.

In general, applicants are required to apply for a visa in person. However, Thai embassies and consulates in some countries and in some cases may also accept applications sent through representatives, authorized travel agencies or by post. Please check acceptable ways of applications with the Thai Embassy or Consulate-General where you intend to submit your application.

Please note that the period of visa validity is different from the period of stay. The visa validity is a period during which a visa can be used to enter Thailand. Generally, the validity of a visa is 3 months, but in some cases, we also issue visas valid for 6 months or 1 year. The validity of a visa is granted by the Embassy or Consulate-General and shown in the visa. The period of stay depends on the type of visa and is granted by an immigration officer upon arrival at the port of entry. For example, the period of stay for a transit visa does not exceed 30 days, for a tourist visa does not exceed 60 days and for a non-immigrant visa does not exceed 90 days from the arrival date. Travellers who wish to stay longer than such period may apply for extension of stay at offices of the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok, located in Soi Suan Plu, South Sathorn Road, Bangkok 10120, Tel 02-2873101-10 or at an Immigration office in the provinces. For information on application for extension of stay, please see the website of the Immigration Bureau at www.immigration.go.th

Foreigners entering Thailand are not allowed to work, regardless of their types of visa, unless they are granted a work permit. Information on Work Permit application could be obtained from the website of the Office of Foreign Workers Administration, Department of Employment, Ministry of Labour at www.doe.go.th/workpermit/index.html

Types of Visa
Following are types of visa granted byThai Embassy and Consulate-General:
1. Transit Visa
2. Tourist Visa
3. Non-Immigrant Visa
4. Diplomatic Visa
5. Official Visa
6. Courtesy Visa

Transportation
International and Domestic Travel

Flying is the most convenient mode of transportation for most visitors traveling to Thailand. Domestic flights are also easy and convenient, cutting down on journey time. A number of domestic carriers service a majority of large provincial cities dotting generously across the country. Travel to neighboring countries is cheaper when booked within Thailand. Train services connect Bangkok to all regions of the country at reasonable prices. A regular rail service also runs between Bangkok and Singapore via Malaysia. Long distance coaches, both air-conditioned and open-aired, connect all major cities.

International Travel
Air: With Bangkok serving as the international travel hub of SE Asia, the capital serves as the landing port for numerous international airlines, most with direct flights from their destinations. Some chartered and regional flights may land at one of the other international airports within Thailand, consisting of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hat Yai, Phuket, and Ubon Ratchatani. Thecountry's national airline is Thai Airways. Airport departure taxes for international departures costs 500 baht/person. The check-in counters open 2 hours and close half an hour prior departure time.

Buses: Inter-city bus services offer a fast means of transport to all corners of the country. Air-conditioned buses service many provincial areas and bookings for both regular and tour coaches (private companies) can be made through major hotels and travel agents, or at the following bus terminals:

Northern Bus Terminal: Kampaengphet 2 Rd, Bangkok Tel: 0-2936-2852-66 ext. 614
0-2936-3670

Eastern Bus Terminal: Sukhumvit Rd, Bangkok. Tel: 0-2391-6846, 0-2391-2504

Northeastern Bus Terminal: Kampaengphet 2 Rd, Bangkok Tel: 0-2936-2852-66 ext.605 0-2936-0657

Southern Bus Terminal: Boromratchchonnani Rd, Bangkok Tel: 0-2435-1200, 0-2435-1199

Central Bus Terminal: Kampaengphet 2 Rd, Bangkok Tel: 0-2936-2841-8 ext.311 0-2537-8055

The government bus company, called Bor Kor Sor (BKS), provides the cheapest mode for getting around Thailand. Being frequent and reliable, no advance booking is necessary. Both air-conditioned ones and open-aired ones stop almost everywhere along their route, with the latter being the cheapest and slowest.

Trains: The State Railway of Thailand runs an efficient rail service linking Bangkok (Hua Lam Phong is the central train station) to the rest of the country at very reasonable prices for express, fast and ordinary trains. Limited western and southern routes out of Bangkok also operate from the Thon Buri Station, traveling to destinations as far as Kanchanaburi province in the west and Chumporn province in southern Thailand.

On express trains, sleepers are available in three classes: first and second class (air-conditioned), and second class (non air-conditioned, but with fans).

Advance tickets are available at all principal stations or the Bangkok Railway Advance Booking Office at Tel : 0-2220-4444

Public Holidays
New Year's Day : Jan 1
Makha Bucha Day : late January to early March
Chakri Day : April 6
Songkran Day : April 13 
National Labour Day : May 1
Coronation Day : May 5
Visakha Bucha Day : May
Asanha Bucha Day : July 
Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent) : July
HM the Queen's Birthday : August 12
Chulalongkorn Day : October 23 
HM the King's Birthday : December 5
Constitution Day : December 10
New Year's Eve : December 31

What to Bring:
Packing is mostly a matter of common sense. Keep in mind that Thailand is a tropical country where any kind of jacket is rarely required. However, dressing in shorts all the time is not a good idea either. In addition to the dangers of too much sun and mosquitoes, you also need to keep in mind that most temples and palaces require visitors to wear long pants.

Natural fabrics such as cotton breathe better and so will keep you cooler than artificial cloth. Having laundry done at hotels in Thailand is generally inexpensive, so you can assume that you can have items cleaned if needed.

Aside from sensible clothing, you'll probably want to bring a camera. If you're still using film, all types of film can be purchased just about anywhere in Thailand. One-hour processing is also readily available throughout the kingdom.

We'd also suggest you bring an inexpensive rain poncho. The lightweight plastic kind take up almost no room in your camera bag or backpack, but can really come in handy if you get stuck in the rain.

Do's & Don'ts
Whilst Thai people are among the most tolerant and forbearing of hosts, they have nevertheless a number of customs and taboos which the visitor should respect. To help with this the Tourist Authority of Thailand publishes a tiny booklet entitled "Do's and Don'ts in Thailand". A few extracts are included here:

Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. You may see Westernized young Thai's holding hands in public, but that is as far as it goes, in polite society.

Topless bathing may be considered acceptable in your own country, but is inappropriate in Thailand.

Thai's consider the head as the highest part of the body, both literally and figuratively. As a result they don't approve of touching anyone on the head, even as a friendly gesture.

It is considered rude to point the sole of your foot at another person, so try to avoid doing so when sitting opposite someone, and following the concept that the foot is the lowest limb, don't point your foot to show anything to anyone.

Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman wants to give anything to a monk or novice, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. In case the woman wants to present it with her hand, the monk or novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe, and the woman will lay down the gift on the material.

It is alright to wear shoes whilst walking around the grounds of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the Buddha image is kept. Women should ensure that their legs and shoulders are covered before entering a Buddhist temple. Please do not wear shorts.

The Thai people have a deep traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and the visitor should also show respect for the King and the Queen, and the Royal Children. When attending a public event where a member of the Royal Family is present, the best guide on how to behave is to watch the crowd and do as it does.
 
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